Saints ship two late tries as they lose out at Harlequins
Saints conceded two tries in the final 15 minutes as they fell to a 26-25 defeat against Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday night.
It was a second defeat in as many Premiership Rugby Cup matches for Chris Boyd's side as they let a 25-14 lead slip late on.
Saints did have the chance to go for goal when 25-19 up, but they turned it down in favour of going for the corner. They were seeking a try bonus point at the time, and kicker James Grayson had been limping.
And the away side were made to pay as Luke Wallace pounced seven minutes from time, with Jamie Benson's nerveless conversion ultimately winning the game for Quins.
Saints had come back from 14-0 down during the first half thanks to tries from George Hendy, Mike Haywood and Josh Gillespie.
James Grayson added two penalties to the tally in the second period, but Quins refused to lie down, helped by two Saints yellow cards, for JJ Tonks and Tom Collins.
And the hosts sent their fans home happy thanks to their late heroics.
Saints had headed to the Stoop on the back of a defeat to London Irish six days earlier, and it didn't start well as Harlequins centre Lennox Anyanwu won a penalty on halfway.
Anyanwu eventually profited from his earlier intervention as Quins kicked a couple of penalties to the corner before sending him over for the opening score.
Benson converted and he was doing so again soon after as Saints were sucked into contact on their left and lost sight of the ball. Quins exposed them, with Aaron Morris and Huw Jones combining to set Scott Steele free.
It was a rocky start from Saints but when they finally got the chance to attack, they looked razor sharp.
After one move ended with Quins just about escaping in the corner, Saints turned the ball over close to the home line and pieced together a fine move that ended with a superb offload from Rory Hutchinson to scorer Hendy.
Grayson converted well from the touchline and the gap was cut to seven points.
Saints then had to scramble well to stop Quins scoring in the corner, forcing a knock-on and then earning a scrum penalty to help relieve some of the pressure.
And it wasn't long before Saints were knocking at the Quins door, kicking a penalty to the corner and sending Haywood over on the back of a dominant lineout drive.
Grayson converted to level the scores but Saints lost Manny Iyogun to injury as he limped off to be replaced by Nick Auterac.
Saints were now on top though and after Quins failed to gather with a penalty coming the way of the away side, Gillespie picked up the pieces and scored in the corner.
Grayson hit the post with the conversion, but his side held a five-point lead at half-time.
Harlequins almost hit back early in the second half following a fantastic break from Oscar Beard but when the ball went wide, it was fumbled over the try line.
Saints managed to escape their own territory by winning a penalty on their own line, and they soon won one much closer to goal, allowing Grayson to secure another three points.
Tonks was then sin-binned just seconds after coming on for Saints, with Quins piling the pressure on.
Saints were soon down to 13 as Collins was yellow carded for offside, with Quins seeing what they thought was a subsequent try ruled out.
Saints then won a key penalty at the scrum five metres from their own line, giving them some welcome respite.
Quins were looking frustrated and after they conceded another penalty, this time for offside, Grayson slotted it to hand his side an 11-point lead.
Saints still had work to do though and after Tonks returned to the field, they were penned back by the home side.
Quins eventually found their way over as Anyanwu cruised in for his second score of the night following good work from Nick David and Hayden Hyde.
Benson missed the conversion but Saints' lead was cut to just six points with 12 minutes remaining.
With Grayson seemingly limping, Saints then turned down a shot at goal that would have given them a nine-point lead, and they were quickly hit by a sucker punch.
Jones was stopped just short of the line but the ball was recycled and Wallace powered over.
Benson held his nerve to convert, with the Stoop erupting as Quins took a one-point lead with six minutes to go.
Saints huffed and puffed as they tried to get back ahead, but the hosts held out to ensure it would be they who would celebrate the narrowest of wins.
Harlequins: David; Beard, Jones, Anyanwu, Morris (Hyde 57); Benson, Steele (Stafford 53), Garcia Botta (Osborne 58), Musk (Head 65), Trenier (Hobson 50); Tizard, Hammond (Scotland-Williamson 57); Taulani (Scotland-Williamson 57), Wallace, White (c).
Saints: Hendy; Gillespie, Litchfield, Hutchinson (E Grayson 62), Collins (Skosan 70); J Grayson, Tupai (James 54); Iyogun (Auterac 28), Haywood (Fish 58), Carey (Garside 62); Moon, Coles (c); Wilkins, Newman (Tonks 53), Irvine (Lockett 65).
Referee: Mike Hudson